Walking on

As I was leaving the hosp[ital this morning after my treatment, I stood at the lift doors when they opened, and a man started to exit. When he realised it wasn’t the ground floor, he stepped back, confused, and I entered, brightly asking, “going down?”

It was hard to judge his age. I tend to do it taking myself as a reference point, but even given my recent travails, I’m more sprightly than many and certainly look a good deal younger than all but a few of the same age. Considering that, I’d estimate he was around my age or a couple of years older.

He was thin and bent, clutching at the handrail in the lift for support. He had wispy grey hair and a thin grey beard. He turned to study me as the lift doors closed. “You sound jolly for a man leaving hospital,” he said.

There was no judgement in the comment, nor even curiosity, really. In part, I think it was a reflection on his own condition compared to mine – he had a walker – but he took some reassurance from it also, I think, as if to say, good onya mate.

I don’t know if I was jolly – or if I could ever be described as jolly – but I was feeling pretty bright. I hadn’t realised until he said it, but I saw myself as he must have, seemingly healthy and full of vigour, a friendly tone to my voice, striding into the lift after him. “I’m jolly because I’m leaving the hospital,” I told him.

I got on at the second floor, and it took no time to get to the ground floor. We exchanged a couple of extra pleasantries and wished each other a good day. I was fairly certain that my day would be better than his, and perhaps the weeks and months ahead also. Not for the first time, I blessed my good fortune. There’s nothing like visiting a hospital to appreciate how many desperately sick people there are.

It was cool, but the sun was out. On impulse, I turned left instead of right as I left the building and walked down to the French restaurant near the corner. I ordered a flat-white to go, and the tall, slender French girl served me, smiling and friendly as she has been each time I’ve visited. I left and started towards the station.

I have headphones on while travelling on the train and to and from the station. With noise reduction switched on, I feel like I’m in my own little world, which is welcome in the cold mornings. I occasionally listen to music, but mostly it’s an audiobook I listen to pass the time. That was the case today.

It’s a well-worn route by now – this is my seventh week of treatment. Next week is my eighth and final week. I’ll be very grateful for the end of it, but the best part is when I’m heading home. Mostly I listen to my book and whatever thoughts in my head pass through without lingering long. For some reason, it was different today.

I thought of the man in the lift. I saw him as an individual and hoped his story would end well. Often, coming and going from the hospital, I’ll see patients in their robes, attached sometimes to a wheeled contraption, outside taking in the fresh air and activity or, alternately, having a cigarette. I always feel fortunate that that’s not me. Thinking of the man today, I felt grateful for what I have.

I don’t know how or why, but I then recalled, very vaguely, a woman I went out with many years ago. She had cottoned on me after getting all the details of my birth and doing my chart – she dabbled in that stuff. Her analysis proved that our stars were almost literally entwined. She proclaimed us a great match, which was the primary reason she had latched onto me. It was in the stars. Needless to say, it wasn’t.

Then, as I passed by a street, a nagging memory came to life. I’d gone out with a cute lawyer for a while and should have made much more of the relationship than I did. Walking to and fro all these weeks, I felt sure she had lived around here, and suddenly. It was the street I was passing where she lived.

I remembered her again. She was intelligent and attractive. A good type. I knew I should make a go of it, but I was coming off a recent disappointment, and my heart wasn’t in it. She’d have been good.

I walked on. That’s life. You walk on.

Good inside

So I went out for a drink after work on Friday. There’s a guy at work, quite a cool dude, who’s been at me for a couple of months now to catch up for a drink. He asked me again last week, and I knew I couldn’t refuse him again, so I said yes.

My plan was one or two and then home. I’d been invited to a poker night later, so it fit well, but at that stage, I thought it would be an innocent brew and some inconsequential conversation.

As it turned out, there were a group of people collecting for a drink, including the girl I’ve been having all these problems with. My heart fell. I’m at the stage that I’m happy to avoid her, so awkward has it become. I’ve done my bit trying to make it better and now have basically parked the attempt. And so seeing her there was an inconvenience, as was probably my appearance for her.

I sat at an available seat away from her and soon fell into a deep conversation with a range of people. Every time I thought to leave someone put another bottle of beer in front of me. One of the people I’m closer too had confided to a couple of the women there that I wrote on the side, news they received with fascination. For the next 20-30 minutes, I was plied with questions that led to conversations about literature and writing. I love those discussions.

In the meantime, the people sitting between the girl and me had left. We were sitting on a bench seat, with her at the end against the wall. I stood hoping that someone would come in and take the vacant seats, but in the end, had to slide over to make room. I shouldn’t have been surprised, that’s how such things always seem to work out. I ended up sitting right next to her.

Neither of us spoke to the other. It wasn’t rude. I was busy speaking to the people on my left and across from me. She was busy talking to the person opposite her. Only once when the conversation became more general did her well-mannered instincts come to the surface as she explained who a newcomer to the table was.

I don’t know that it was particularly awkward, but it felt very obvious.

She left soon after, shifting the table away from her to get out rather than ask for us to let her out. I wasn’t surprised she left – it seemed inevitable. And I was glad.

Later I thought how utterly ridiculous that two more than usually intelligent people, both of us decent human beings, should descend to such a silly situation. It’s exactly what I wanted to avoid, but I guess all roads lead to Rome in matters like this. I wonder what is in her mind? Whatever it is she’s got the wrong end of it, and unfortunately, it only makes it harder for her.

Me, I’m the happiest I’ve been for a long while, touch wood. Opening up as I have this year is close to the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel energised. I feel lighter than many a year and free from the stuff that was dragging me back. It might sound strange, but I feel connected to an energy I’ve never been a part of before.

That’s what most things boil down to in the end if you’re true to yourself. I can’t control things outside me, but if I’m good inside, I can manage anything.

Leading the dance

There’s a reason I don’t like to get involved with people at work. Even when I’m not involved it can get pretty tricky, which is what I’m experiencing now. I’ve have had my issues, but I’ve concluded the problem is not with me, but her.

I’m not trying to do anything. I have no agenda, I’m just trying to be normal and friendly. If we can get back to the friendly relations we had before then that would be great, but in the meantime, I want something that doesn’t stick out.

To get back to that, I have a policy of being pleasant, friendly, and to carry on as usual. There are constraints, but basically, it means that if I would have said or done something before then, I’ll seek to say or do the same thing now.

Of course, it’s a lot harder in real life. I had my own issues for a little, which made that difficult with everyone, but particularly her. And then there are the ups and downs and the moments of trepidation which either frustrate or make you reticent.

There have been times when I think we’re on the way back, and then something will happen. It’s disturbingly familiar to me, but now I can see patterns emerging.

Basically, if I catch her unawares, if I go up to her and ask her a question at her desk, or as she passes me by, then she is bright to the point of exuberance and exuding warmth. But then I’ll send her an email about some work-related matter, and when once there was a touch of whimsy and smiley faces, her response is studiedly formal.

We get in about the same time. Early in the week, she was getting in ahead of me, and as I walked into a near-empty office, I would be directly facing her. I made a point of wishing her a civil good morning each day. Today I was in ahead of her, and once more, the office was near empty. She walked in and without turning said good morning in a small voice. I thought she was ignoring me, and directing it towards someone else when I realised there was no-one else. I didn’t bother responding to a head turned away from me.

Both of us are consistently good with everyone else but each other. Except for the moments we connect it’s like there’s a forcefield about us individually, though if she’s close by and talking to someone within my earshot, there seems an almost manic edge to her performance. It’s overemphasised – though remember I’m sensitive to these things. Her voice is louder than it need be, her laugh longer.

I’m at the point where I don’t want to get involved in these games. I don’t want to play. I know from experience how toxic that can get. I thinking of backing off, being friendly but distant – in effect, all that means is that I won’t make the efforts I have before. The problem with that is that she might think I’m playing and the spiral will continue. That’s the benefit in making it normal, as I’ve tried to do. We don’t have to be close, but just simply conducting things in a normal, civil manner takes the temperature.

The problem with all of this is that it takes two to tango. No matter what I do now, it will be interpreted one way or the other. So be it.

The girl in the silk pyjamas

I remember, once upon a time, catching the overnight train from Melbourne to Sydney – the Spirit of Progress as I think it was called. I was pretty young then and chose to travel by train for the pure romance of it. I was like that then, full of ideas and questions and romantic notions. A sleeper by train, I imagined, was something like the Orient Express – even if I was only going to Sydney.

I remember the night so vividly, towards the tail end of winter I think, the train pulled up at Flinders Street platform one, and in my ear Sarah Brightman singing All I Ask of You, believe it or not.

I had a sleeper and once we were underway and after a quick exploration of the train, I went back to it. I lay in my narrow berth with the blind up so that I could watch the scenery passing by while I lay there reading. At about 10.30 I reckon I got restless. I pulled on a pair of tracky-dacks, a t-shirt, took my book and went along to the saloon car for a change of scene.

To my surprise, it was almost empty. The only other person there was a woman of about my age, attractive in an intellectual way, with rich, tumbling red-brown hair like in the shampoo commercials. She was curled up in a corner reading a book, and what I remember was the very elegant cream silk pyjamas she wore.

I found my own seat and began to read, very aware of her. My book, I remember, was by Algernon Blackwood, and the story I was reading The Wendigo. Funny how you remember such things.

It seems so predictable in retrospect, and of course, the mysterious girl and I were sitting across from each other in minutes, talking at first about our respective books, before moving on – very naturally – to more deep and meaningful stuff – what we wanted from life, what made us happy, what puzzled us, what moved us. It was very intimate, yet entirely without any self-consciousness, she in her silk pyjamas, and me in my track pants.

After about an hour and a half, we parted to go to our respective beds.

The train began to pull into the western suburbs of Sydney 7 am the next day. I dressed, had some breakfast, packed my bag, and prepared to alight. The train rolled into Central station, and there was my friend waiting to collect me.

It was only when I set foot on the platform that I understood the enormity of my error. It was like a gaping maw suddenly opened in me. What had I been thinking? I hadn’t even got the girl’s name. I didn’t know where she was or how I could find her. Suddenly I had to know. I couldn’t leave it like this.

I dropped my bags at my friend’s feet and raced up and down the platform searching for the mystery woman in the cream silk pyjamas. I was frantic, but I never found her.

It’s not really a story of what could have been, though it might appear so. I wish I had got her details. I remember in the days after I was full of remorse, as if I had let slip my great opportunity. I even tried to get her name from the passenger manifest.

In the time since, what she has come to represent is a kind of ideal. I never knew her long enough for it to spoil. I think sometimes it was meant to be exactly what it was – a chance but perfect meeting, pure in its brevity. It opened me up and gave me an idea of what was possible. Maybe it spoiled me, but no regrets.

Not a ladies’ man

It seems an old conversation, a theme that keeps recurring: why is it so many people assume that I’m a ladies man?

It happened again today. I’m back at work, and I stop by the desk of one of my friends and ask how her Christmas and New Year was. She then asked how my break was. Before I could answer the dude behind her swivels in his chair and with a big smile, says “he was busy dating all the girls.”

I thought, WTF? He’s a cool dude, but I don’t really know him that well, so his comments came as a total surprise. Before Christmas, some of the girls got hold of an old photo of me and went on about how handsome I was. When he saw it, he said something like “you must have pulled a lot of chicks back then”. I’m only guessing that’s where this comment has stemmed from. The problem is he said it right in front of the girl I like, and I figure she won’t much like the idea of me being a ladies man, besides which, actually, I’m not.

There’s something always deflating in episodes like this. They’re surprisingly regular, so there must be something to it. I dislike it because it’s a misrepresentation, and because it presumes me to be more shallow than I am, and because there’s a taint of profiling in such easy assumptions.

I asked Donna why this happens to me so much. She came back straight at me: because you have a swagger. Because you’re cocky and confident and comfortable with women. Because you have the demeanour of a man who reckons he can charm his way to anything.

I can only take her at her word – she probably knows me better than anyone. I was a little surprised, though. A few years back, I would have accepted it a lot easier. Once upon a time, I sat very easily within my skin. Since then I feel a lot frailer, so it’s a great surprise that I still give off that vibe. Is it a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. What’s not so good is how others interpret it.

So I was annoyed and actually felt downhearted afterwards. And I was deadly concerned about what she would think. I’m an authentic dude I think, and I want her to think it too. I want to be absolutely square.

I thought about it when I went to lunch. Of course, I did. It occurred to me that this concern actually aligns with my desire to be less glib. That’s a reason I want to be less glib (though I do it so well). Glib sits well with the notion of the ladies’ man. It’s easy to believe that someone so slippery and ready with the one-liners is like that on a personal basis. That’s not what I want.

I can’t change my nature, and I don’t want to. I’m happy to be confident, as much as it is. I’m glad I can be charming and witty. And being comfortable with women is no bad thing. If that’s all, there is though I’m apt to be misinterpreted, and because I’ve been so guarded so often, that’s all acquaintances see of me. And so they draw conclusions.

I’m upset by this, but it affirms my intention to be more open and vulnerable.

I’m trusting that no significant harm has been done with the girl I like, but she’s gone home since and I can’t tell. Otherwise, I’ve taken the plunge and opened up to someone I trust this morning and told him about my homeless/unemployed interlude. He was fine with it, and in fact, confessed how he lived with his parents for two years after his divorce. I felt good letting it go. It’s not such a big deal, which is how it should be.

Signifying what?

It’s a lovely morning and as always I caught the train into work. I found a seat by the window, slipped my headphones on and looked out the window as the train filled up about me. U used to get off at Richmond to catch a connecting train through the loop, but lately I’ve stayed on the train to ride all the way in to Flinders Street. It makes a change, and that’s reason enough, but the exercise I get walking the extra distance to work is a bonus.

And so at Flinders Street I alighted the train and joined the crowd exiting the station. I took the underground tunnel from mid-platform that runs under the tracks and exits at Degraves Street. It’s a very well-worn route for me, reminiscent of other times, other jobs, other journeys. It’s been a while since I travelled that way, but was gratified to see the same busker in the tunnel as there was nearly 10 years ago. Things don’t change as much as you imagine them to.

I’m in a blue suit today with tan shoes and belt, and a pale blue shirt. The shoes are slip-on, but only because my lace-ups need a cobbler. I come out of the tunnel, up the stairs and into Degraves Street. The cafes there are busy with people having breakfast, some before work, but most probably tourists. I wend my way through the crowd and through another familiar arcade to Collins Street. The sun is shining, though they say it will rain later. I feel the part in Collins Street. I like wearing this suit, being this man.

I like being in the heart of the city this time of day too. It is a smidge past 8am. The cafes are doing a roaring trade, but otherwise the plethora of retail stores are still closed, or just beginning to open. It feels new, like a bud about to burst. Later there will be people everywhere and buskers playing and advertised specials, for this moment I can still hear the ring of my shoes upon the stone ground.

It’s good to walk to work like that. It feels an appropriate entry to the day, and especially to work. The walk gets the blood pumping and idle thoughts transition to vague intentions.

On Elizabeth street the trams trundle down the road as I walk through a near empty mall and past the old GPO building (now it’s a H&M store). Soon I’m approaching work. I’m mellow, but feel something coiled in me. There always is.

This is the man suited up and with a game face slowly forming. Earlier I was more naked in my self.

As I did a couple of months ago I dreamed about the Irish girl again last night. The first time was a surprise, the second times feels meaningful. I dream all the time, but what is different about these dreams (and select others) is that I wake with fond affection. That’s what surprises me, and what I try to interpret. Is the Irish girl symbolic of something, as I believed last time, or is it her?

There’s not much to say about the dream except that in it I like her a lot. We are friendly, but there is nothing between us. I want to get closer to her, and perhaps she is willing, but I find it hard to bridge the gap. I’m shy and uncertain in the dream, almost bashful. I’m not the man in the blue suit. It’s a familiar feeling to me, though not felt for a very long time. I think most people have felt it at some time. It may be awkward, but its’s a good feeling. It’s good because it contains hope and gentle yearning and welcome humility, and it’s good because it signifies something real.

That’s what I wake with then, the residue of that feeling, and I wonder: what does it signify now?

How odd is it that I dream of the same woman twice now in very similar ways when I have not seen her for years and rarely – if ever – found myself thinking of her in my waking hours? I wish I knew these things.

The dream, I think, worked out okay, and immediately after waking, when I was getting myself ready for work and putting that blue suit on I wondered if I should contact her? Was that what it was telling me? Would that be appropriate, or creepy? And what would I say?

I worry that there is meaning to this that I don’t act on will lose. I’ve lost things before, and sometimes because I’ve been too much blue suit. Wht the fuck does it mean?


I had a peculiar experience of déjà vu this morning that for a moment had me ponder if I was experiencing Groundhog Day.

I’m walking to the station from home to catch the morning train. As I do every morning I turn into a small right of way that runs alongside the railway tracks. Then, exactly as yesterday, I had to pause as the very same vehicle as before backed from the garage into the street. Thirty metres on up the road I encounter once more the same woman as yesterday in the very same place out walking her same two dogs. The only difference today was that she carried two coffees.

Same time, same place, same actual incidents two days running when on all the previous occasions I’ve walked to work I’ve never encountered one of them, let alone both. Just a fluke I guess.

Earlier I had strange and disruptive dreams. There were many interesting fragments, but there was one that continued to resonate with me after I woke. I was with an attractive, intelligent woman, my sort of woman I knew even in the dream. I was drawn to her and she liked me, but I was in a sorry state. There was the sense that I want to do more with this woman, but the time was not right. And I felt I was not giving a good account of myself because I had my mind on other things. I felt regret, even dismay, but let it go.

Waking I scanned my memory wondering who the woman could be. Sometimes your dreams create characters and faces from thin air, but this person was real, I was sure.

In a few minutes I remembered. She was an Irish girl I employed a few years back as a masseuse. She was a few years older than the other girls, and attractive, bright, intelligent woman with whom I hit it off immediately. I remember one evening in the shop sharing a bottle of wine and sharing our stories. I liked her, but had never thought her as physically attractive as she appeared in the dream – though, I felt, the dream was a truer reflection.

Why have I dreamed of her now then? In recent weeks she has popped up in my Facebook feed as someone I might know. Every time she appears there my eyes are drawn to her. She is back in Ireland now and far away, and turn the page and she is out of my mind.

It’s not about her, I think. She is a symbol. And the tale of the dream so apt. For years I have set these things aside regretfully. At times I have felt ‘not myself’. I’m past that now, and I’m keen to move on in general. I’m unsure how though, and there remains a part of me who questions the wisdom of it when I am still deep in the woods.

The convolutions of the mind are a strange and fantastic thing. If only I understood them more then I would be a wise man.


Bolder times

I’ve been chatting with a colleague about the good old days when life was a bit more free-wheeling that it is now. It started off talking about the footy. Our formative years of AFL were pretty much the eighties, which was a wild and woolly and utterly great decade of football. It was an era of great games, larger than life characters, and bruising football. We were both wistful about how AFL footy has become sanitised since then. It’s still a great game – probably better than ever – but an awful lot of the rough and tumble has been legislated out of the contest. For someone who grew up watching robust footy, and playing it too, it’s a bit sad, but very much a sign of the times.

So too are expectations of us. There’s a corporate party on this Friday night at one of the city bars. I’ll go along for an hour or two of free drinks and nibbles, then be home in time for the footy (ironically). Ahead of the party Friday a corporate missive has been sent out to all and sundry reminding us of the standards expected of us, and basically telling us to pull our heads in and behave. Now I understand that, but once more I can recall a time when it was different.

In the mid-eighties I worked at a bank in IO. It was a competitive environment of younger folk with no-one much more than about 27, and with just about an even split of men and women. We worked hard, as was the culture, and played hard too, which was the culture also. Some of the stories from back then would make your eyes pop, but gee, it was fun living.

Anyway, one year we had a mid-year Christmas party on the 30th June at the Banks Rowing Club on the Yarra. It was a great venue and everyone keenly anticipated the event.

Leading into it many of us nominated a CPT – a Christmas Party Target. I don’t know how that started but I for one happily joined in. For my CPT I chose one of the currency dealers, an enigmatic and attractive woman with long, curly blonde hair and other attributes that led her to be known – in my mind at least – as ‘big tits’.

I’d had the hots for her for a while and, unbeknownst to me, she knew it. I was an intern learning the business, as most of us were. I’d got friendly with one of the old hands showing us the ropes and confided to him that I quite fancied that girl with…well, you know. As it turns out they were very good friends and somewhere along the line he told her. I’d probably have been mortified had I known, but it worked out well – turns out that going into the event I was her CPT.

It should have been a lay down misere then. I wanted her, she wanted me, and in a lubricious atmosphere with an abundance of alcohol to urge us along we should have sealed the deal pretty quickly. As they say though, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. So it was that night, and for a very good reason.

I never got to see those fabled breasts up close and personal. I sort of wish I had, but the reason I didn’t was pretty good.

The night proceeded pretty much as had been promised. Lots of drink, excellent food – up to and including lobster (the bank didn’t stint) – much carousing and a few shenanigans. I swear that come midnight that quite a few of the bushes by the banks of the river rustled as CPT’s bonded.

In the meantime, I hooked up with someone different. It was with a girl I’d met and connected with and liked some weeks before. Turns out she had a thing for me, thought I had presence, loved how I walked, and other things she later told me in exuberant detail. I liked her too, and perhaps it was because I liked her I didn’t nominate her as my CPT. Big tits was fun, and probably a lot of fun, and I was probably the same for her. Mogesh – the girl I found – had found a place in a different part of me.

I can be a bold character, and that was certainly true then. I can be crazy flirtatious and funny and charming – less so these days, though it’s coming back. The women who drew that out of me were generally the women I felt a more primal attraction to. The women I really liked, liked deep inside of me, drew from me a different set of behaviours. There might be some wit, but I’m more serious. I’m incredibly sensitive then, and tingle with tenderness. I become a more compact character, not the provocative charmer, but someone much quieter and sincere. That was the person drawn to Mogesh, and he didn’t do CPT’s.

In any case from early on that evening I found myself with her. I don’t think I ever asked, but I’m pretty certain that’s how she planned it. We spent the night there together and afterwards went back to her flat in East St Kilda. I spent the night holding her in her ¾ sized bed and refraining from sex. By morning I had a bad case of blue balls she was finally happy to relieve me of.

I spent the weekend with her and it was one of the most special weekends of my life. We spent most of it in bed making love. We shared a bath, went out for dinner, came back. I remember at the end of the weekend waiting to catch a tram back wondering what had just happened.

There was a bold character inside me, but within him was this romantic soul. It felt the truth of me and I was suddenly grateful that I had found someone with whom I could be that person. I fell in love with Mogesh: she was the first. At one stage we planned to get married. That encounter changed my life forever.

I would be bold again then and in the years since, but all the while searching for the woman I could share my more sincere self with.

Times have changed. I lived through that time when there were fewer boundaries drawn, and when expression was a natural thing. I’m still here, I know what it was like and a large part of that era is lodged in me. Now the expectations have shifted. We have become more consciously civilised, boundaries are firmly drawn and reinforced, and expectations of behaviour, conduct, even belief, are clearly stated.

I understand. Much of that is for the theoretical good, but there must be room for individuality and dissent. I look back upon those brilliantly coloured characters, not all of them politically correct, and think, what a time it was to be alive.


The people who know me

I make it a rule that no-one who knows me personally has the address of this blog. Theory goes I don’t want to be inhibited knowing that people close to me are reading what I’m writing. And, I guess, you never know when I want to write about them – problematic when they can read it.

That’s the theory. In reality there are people who know me who know about this place, and at least one who is an active reader. In his case he basically pleaded with me to get the address, and I relented – he’s now a loyal reader who gives regular feedback. There are others who knew about the site back in its inception, in 2004, but I doubt if any of those still read, or are even aware that it’s still active. Then there are the accidents, the calamities, when people you know unexpectedly learn that you have a blog – and have written about them.

I had lunch today with a mate, the very guy I mentioned above and who is probably reading these words right now. He was telling me how he had recently gone back into the archives and began reading my posts from the second half of 2006.

As he said, that was an interesting time in life – though probably a better read than it was to live. Without going into too much detail I became infatuated and very likely fell in love with a workmate who happened to be attached to someone else. It was a complex, messy and ultimately doomed period of my life, and it all came back to me as he asked questions about it. Like I said, it’s a good read, like an edgy Mills and Boon.

Life happens and it goes on. What was forever once soon recedes into the past, but it’s always yours. I could think of nor imagine anything else but her back in the day, but ultimately you move on. That’s the pattern. If I look back it’s with a mix of wistfulness and regret. I don’t regret feeling what I did or meeting her, and I’m not even really sure if I regret they way it turned out – badly. Shit happens, after all. I regret that I didn’t know better and couldn’t close it out, one way or another.

It is of the past though and just another story, except that this was an occasion when others stumbled across my blog. That was tough. They were some of my work colleagues, including her, and everything I had written was revealed. That would have been tough enough without my intimate thoughts being exposed – and believe me, there were intimate thoughts.

I curled up in a ball. I cringed. I felt myself naked, as if everyone knew and were pointing at me behind my back. As it happened I had written of my feelings for her, and everyone could see, not the least her. For a little while I password protected my site. I withdrew into my technological shell. At work I probably put on a stony face, but I felt it. And then there were the comments I had to respond to. As always, I was combative, but I felt under siege.

Looking back now I don’t know what difference it would have made had that never happened. Did it cruel my chances with her, or enhance them? Certainly she could read my innermost thoughts, most of which were tender. I had reason to believe that she was receptive to that at least – I could track her frequent visits to the site, and saw that she had saved many of my posts to her hard drive, as if she want to keep them and read them whenever she wanted. She was in a relationship, yet she kept returning.

On the other hand it made things near impossible between us. What had been a small thing shared became tawdry exposed to the open air. What might have gone on quietly for months and simply enjoyed without undue expectation suddenly had an expiry date. Exposed as we were it couldn’t go on.

Ultimately the resolution was ugly and it remains one of the more difficult times in my life. I felt ostracised, but squared the jaw and didn’t complaint. The writing was on the wall, loud and rude, and I took myself away from there.

It’s long in the past now – more than 10 years. She could be reading still for all I know, but both of us have moved on.

Do you regret? It might have been different yes, and I wish we had stayed friends – she was a grand person. But no, I don’t really regret. For a while I was filled to the brim, and I felt it, felt it all the way so that I knew that I was perfectly alive. And now it’s just a story, but mine – and hers too. That much we still share.


Do you know this desire?

Typically I get on the train some time before 7.30am each morning and find myself a seat for the ride into town. Like everyone with winter come I’m swaddled in warm winter clothing and often a scarf. I have a set of headphones that shut out the world and through which I listen to music, and more often to audiobooks.

The trip into town is a quiet time. I just sit there. I watching the passing stations as we tick them off and cast an eye over the commuters boarding the train. Come Richmond, which is where I get off, the train is generally pretty full.

This morning I sat by the window. At Brighton a woman got on and sat on the seat diagonally opposite me. She was in her mid-20’s with long blonde air and fantastically leggy. She wasn’t beautiful, but was certainly alluring. She sat there and read through what appeared a document from work.

I checked her out and then looked back out the window. I checked her out again. As is almost always the case my mind set to racing.

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, or if to the same degree, but for me there’s a feeling of unexpected, but very welcome delight whenever I encounter an alluring woman. I’m infused with a sense of wellbeing, and almost always a feeling of positive vibrancy. I’m reminded what a marvellous place this world can be, and feel the urge to a piece of it besides. This sense, which is aesthetic, sensual and sexual, is life affirming.

I’m happy for the most part to feel this passively. It was not the occasion and to be honest I had not the desire to try more, and smarts enough to understand what is beyond my reach. To feel the warmth of this possibility is to believe in higher things. There have been occasions when I have acted though, and they are great memories – sometimes you just have to take that punt.

I wonder if what I feel is normal, or if it is commonly felt as vibrantly as I do, or if as urgently?

There was nothing special about the woman today. I felt no special connection to her. I was grateful for her existence, and admired her in much the same way as I admired those glorious thoroughbreds a few weeks back.